Doctor: Grammy reporter suffered migraine, is 'back to normal'
February 17th, 2011
09:12 PM ET

Doctor: Grammy reporter suffered migraine, is 'back to normal'

A migraine - not a stroke - caused a Los Angeles television reporter to mangle her words during a live post-Grammy Awards report on Sunday night, according to the UCLA doctors who examined her in the days after the incident.

KCBS reporter Serene Branson (pictured) suffered a migraine with aura - meaning neurological symptoms that in this case included language problems - causing her to speak gibberish during her report, according to Dr. Andrew Charles, migraine expert and UCLA professor of neurology.

"She’s completely back to normal," Charles said in a telephone interview Thursday, adding that he cleared Branson to return to all activities with no limitation.

Branson's report outside the Staples Center, widely viewed on YouTube early this week before the video was taken down, sparked concerns that she had suffered a stroke.

"A very, very heavy burtation tonight," she said before continuing with incomprehensible words.

Her station said paramedics examined her at the scene but she was not hospitalized, and a colleague gave her a ride home.

Branson was seen early in the week by the chief of neurosurgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Neil Martin, and then Thursday morning by Charles, UCLA spokesman Mark Wheeler said.

A scan ruled out a stroke, eventually leading Martin and Charles to diagnose a migraine, which can present symptoms similar to a stroke, Charles said.

Branson's migraine included a headache and three types of aura - the language troubles plus distorted vision and numbness, Charles said.

"It was quite remarkable that she was actually standing and doing the (report) that she was doing, given what she was experiencing at the time," Charles said. "She was aware of what was happening and was upset about it, but there was no time to back out of what she was doing."

Charles said about 20 to 30 percent of migraine patients experience some type of aura, and those who do most commonly experience visual aura – flashing, wavy lines, or blurry vision.

Such a migraine "can be triggered by different life events, like any migraine – changes in patterns of sleep or diet or exercise or caffeine," Charles said.

Charles stressed that anyone experiencing the symptoms that Branson did should get checked immediately. "The symptoms can be indistinguishable (from that of a stroke) initially, so it's important to emphasize the need to rule that out first," he said.

Branson is expected to address the incident in an interview on KCBS Thursday night.

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Filed under: California • Health • Migraines • TV
soundoff (463 Responses)
  1. Sam

    She was overcome by her own peroxide fumes.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Daniel

    What happens when everything isn't at peace with Serene? Very dares dare son. Very dares dare son. El heaveh fin

    February 18, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. ncga

    This is very real and I experience it with migraines

    The term 'aura' here used is NOT some new-age woo, it's a medical condition that causes blind spots (in my case so much so that I can't do much visually). Additionally during a migraine attack I cannot remember the meanings of words, can't think of the right words and can't put them into a coherent sentence.

    Once the migraine is over, everthing returns to normal.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • CK

      Mine is exactly like that. So glad someone else experiences what I do. It's horrible especially trying to take care of a 14 month old and a 4 year old!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Denise

      OMG, why has my doctor never metioned any of this?? I thought I was nuts at times when going thru migraines. Not always, but there are times these things happen to me!! I am so mad right now!!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Smurfeater

      I've seen someone with a migraine do what she did, I think I'd want a second opinion anyay. Of course common sense allows me to think that she has probably got more than just one.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. Pat

    I had a migraine with aura. Freaked me out. I was in a meeting and all of a sudden my vision went out of whack. I basically couldn’t focus. About a half hour out later, I had the worst headache ever. Wow did that suck. My speech wasn’t affected, but if it was worse, it would have been.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. neuroperson

    Knew it. This was my diagnosis from the original article. I thought it was hilarious all the Neurologists and other medical professionals talking about stroke stroke stroke. Get real docs, the migraine gene is probably present in 20% of the population. Stroke would be 4th or 5th down the list in a differential diagnosis under partial seizure, "panic" attack, and a psychosomatic event. All those Strokeologists need to go back to Neurology school and stay there.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Daniel

    LIES! What America just witnessed was the very first on air possession by the unholy spirit. The pope says he needs a glass of water, 2 young male assistants, and plenty of sacrament and he will get it sorted no problem.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Holly

    I have had the same exact type of migraine with the vision and speech aura. I ended up going to the ER because they thought it was a stroke also.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jon Dunlap

    Never beat yourself on the head full-force with a baseball bat or a sledge hammer. But if you ever accidentally do, that feeling you get for the first few seconds afterward – that's what a migraine feels like. Except it doesn't only last a few seconds. It goes on... and on... and on... as if you are being continuously pounded full-force with that baseball bat or sledge hammer. Almost all migraine sufferers are helped by a dark room and most by silence. I usually listen to loud music with a driving beat to distract my mind from the pain. If I can't have total darkness watching a movie helps, as long as there isn't too much camera panning or fast action – 3D animated movies (Dreamworks / Pixar etc) are best for that. But those are just temporary distractions from the pain – the only real relief is to sleep, and believe me, sleep doesn't come easily when you're in that kind of pain.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      What you need is some LSD or magic mushrooms, not in doses that will make you hallucinate but below that will cure 90% or so of migraines. Look it up if you would like then take up why those treatment options are not available with your local politician.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
    • beth

      Wow, I can't believe you can watch a movie or listen to music. I cringe at sound or light. Smells make me vomit. I even ask the doctors at urgent care to wash their hands after they use the lemon-scented antibacterial hand sanitizer so they can examine me without incident. Otherwise, no promises on that clean lab coat.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. Captain Spalding

    She just got soem good s3x taht rocked herworld! HAHAHAHAH!!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      The collective IQ of Los Angeles has dropped so far that humans are now spontaneously forgetting language and reverting back to primitive grunting noises as a means of conveying concept.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob Z.

      Maybe she done got herself a hold of some "Tootie-F'n-Fruity" ice cream and she just went berzerk?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Awesome

    That was one of the funniest things I've seen in my life. I can't wait till it shows up on Tosh.0! I couldn't figure out WHAT she was trying to say. She should be very proud of herself indeed. Kudos to you Serene! I look forward to more of your work.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. sporty

    In 1983, during a one-minute live news update, NBC newswoman Jessica Savitch experienced a similar event. I had the TV on and witnessed it. As I recall she received none of the concern and sympathy that Branson received but it was rather seen as proof of drug use, perhaps because women were not equals in the news business back then. Anyway, in light of Branson's situation I thought it was worth remembering. Also, Boston Legal had an episode in which a character experienced what they called 'word salad'.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Daniel

    I think she was trying to say that she was down for some very heavy flirtation tonight but she thought the Lakers were playing, not the Grammys.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. Daniel

    They should make her a character on South Park as Jimmy's aunt or something.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. Daniel Tosh

    Okay, stop sending me this video, I have 3,086 in my inbox already! Look for it in about 2 weeks. Peace.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Debbie

    This happens to me regularly as I have seizures, that last 1-3 minutes. My speech becomes slurred, and I can also suffer temporary paralysis on one side. I typically have no pain. I was first diagnosed with migraines and then later diagnosed with seizures. You can have both.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
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